The draft of the proposed National Food Security Act could be the first big-ticket assignment for the second avatar of the National Advisory Council (NAC) when it is set up in the first week of April.
The council will examine the Bill as the Planning Commission and the Right to Food campaigners have opposed the framework drawn by an empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on food security.
The EGoM, led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, said the proposed law should lead to the merger of food welfare schemes — making integrated child welfare and mid-day meal schemes history. It also shot down the idea of food tribunals, put the onus of food security on the states, and reduced to 25 kg from 35 kg the subsidised food grains made available to a below poverty line family.
The Congress, in its manifesto, promised a law providing 25 kg of rice or wheat at Rs 3 for the poorest-of-the poor. President Pratibha Patil talked about it in her Parliament address. In a letter to the government in July, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi laid down the parameters for the proposal.
A group of Right to Food campaigners, including Supreme Court-appointed food commissioners, met Gandhi and expressed concern over the proposed law.
“The EGoM decision is regressive…,” said a plan panel member. “It puts entire food security concept in the hands of bureaucrats who have failed to implement the public distribution system.”
The Opposition, too, said the Bill should first be looked into by the NAC.
The council, which had civil society representatives as members in its earlier edition and monitored the implementation of the UPA’s common minimum programme, advised the government on the Right to Information Act and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
Abhijit Sen, plan panel’s member in-charge of food, rejected the EGoM’s proposals. “I think there should be much more discussion as it is a vital public welfare legislation”.